Thursday, July 18, 2013

Collaboration -- some unhappy campers

I wrote yesterday about how the key to a successful blind collaboration -- one where you don't talk to your fellow artist (or even know who it is) when you hand over part one of the work -- is to have no fixed expectations of what that person will do to it in part two.

I was a happy camper when I saw what happened to the piece I started.  But some people in the show weren't.  Take a look at what happened to four of them, and see if you agree.

Exhibit A: a painted ceramic mask

Here's how the work was finished:  the mask was broken into pieces and arranged in a glass bowl with bark, moss, grass, flowers and pebbles

Exhibit B: a hollow ball turned from spalted maple

Here's how the work was finished:  the ball was broken apart, covered with encaustic wax, burned, filled with dirt and planted with flowers; photos were made at each stage and displayed as the finished piece

Exhibit C: a mixed-media assemblage including doll heads and a vintage globe collaged with photos

Here's how the work was finished:  the globe was cut in two, wrapped with yarn, filled with soil and rocks, and planted with thyme and basil

Exhibit D:  a photoshop creation, printed up fairly large

Here's how the work was finished: the photo was sliced into pieces, some of which were mounted on a wood support, overlaid with some yellow yarn wrapped around nails to make an architectural line about a half inch in front of the support.

Two of the part-one artists were upset and stomped out of the opening reception.  Another announced to the world, when participating artists were invited to make remarks, that he would never do anything like this again.  I don't know what the fourth one thought.

So what do you think?  Would you have stomped out?  I'll tell you my opinion after I've heard yours.


  1. Okay, the first one, I did 'quick inhale' shock! reaction. But then thought again. Well, they didn't leave the other person anything to do.
    So went on to the next ones and saw that was true for the initial work for those as well. (However, I must say the last piece was an improvement, but that is probably my taste more than anything.)

    We have had the benefit of your previous post which has led to the recognition that when you do this, you have to let your bit go altogether. OR present the next person with raw materials. I understand the reaction because some of the second pieces were rather lame. but they probably left it Very Late wondering what they could do with finished work?

    It also seems to me that the organisers of this project should have communicated a bit more to everyone what 'could' happen. and, too, that the artists should have had access to images of previous work of the other artists. Not that it might have made a difference here. but a bit of research might have softened the blow.

    1. We didn't find out who the other artist was until we walked in the door at the gallery and read the signs on the wall, so research wasn't possible under these rules.

  2. I would not stomp out.
    You have to be brave to colaborate, and have a small "e" ego.
    Although I do think a planter is a bit of a copout.
    I assume everybody got a chance to play first and second, so everyone was at the same start gate.
    Cheers Jan

  3. I don't think I would have been happy if Exhibit C had been my initial piece - turning it into two plant pots at the end doesnt show a lot of thought or initiative.
    I did like exhibits A and B - thought the final pieces were interesting, especially exhibit B. The initial makers probably had an idea in their head of what the final piece would turn out like, so you can see how it could come as quiet a shock to see the finished pieces were nothing like that. Think for a collaborative project like this, there either needs to be very detailed rules (e.g. no smashing of pieces, don't touch certain sections etc.) or else everyone has to be aware that they might not be happy with their pieces at the end.

  4. I think the moral of this is that you can't let the piece you sent out be too precious to you because it just becomes art supplies to the next person. I'm rather shocked with some of these.

  5. Looking at it from the second artist's point of view--what could you do with some of these?
    I think A and B were successful responses to this challenge.
    Perhaps it would be better not to call this a collaboration, since it really wasn't. "co labor" means working together, not in sequence.

  6. I can undestand the stompers and the person who would not do this type activity again. The second artist, perhaps, did not show enough respect for what the first artist started. Perhaps also it is like you said. too much was finished with the first part of the piece, and that left the second artist feeling like there was no place to "start" but "over".

  7. This is what you get when every one thinks he ore she is an artist

  8. You might argue that this collaboration is really a stealthy type of performance art, where the artists reactions were the "real art". What a great exhibit that would have been, the filmed reactions of all the first artists!!
    None of the pieces impress me with the exception of the first one, where symbolically the art DIED and was buried where it is recycled back into the food chain just like all our art will find itself eventually.
    I think it says something about how impermanent things we create are, and how important it is to preserve them. Is it really that important?
    I love your blog and look forward to it every day.

  9. No, i would not stomp out because i wouldnt contribute a piece to be worked on that i felt precious about. Re the globe/dolls heads turned into planters: what it made me think about immediately was John Keats poem about Isabella and the pot of basil: she buried her murdered lover's head in a pot and planted it up with basil. I wonder if the dolls heads were buried in the pots?

  10. Karen, these pieces just keep giving.
    I love your reference to Isabella.
    Cheers Jan

  11. I think respect for, or at least commentary on the first artist's work should have been made a clear expectation. Since it sounds like it wasn't, then it's hard to justify stomping out. I'd probably sulk in a corner though.
    Unlike some of the comments, I thought that A was an interesting commentary - the essence of the mask, although destroyed, was still visible. I liked the B response, though some physical result other than the photos would have been more interesting. I didn't think the final result of C was either a good response or a good final piece of art, but the original was very "finished" and hard to modify. I think D was an obnoxious cop-out and didn't even really rise to the level of using the original as raw material. Why bother collaborating in that case?

  12. No stomping here, just a great learning opportunity. And perhaps some personal insight on how to proceed with other collaborations.
    I would prefer anyone I work with to respect my beginnings and add instead of destroy (and bury? YIKES!) the piece. I wonder about the artist pairings here. Were all participants serious artists? It looks like some prefer to tilt toward craft. Taking those heads off the globe and making a planter out of the base is particularly gruesome solution, the base of that space looked very interesting...where did it go? There was so much whimsy and opportunity in the original. Lost opportunity there.
    The first artist in Exhibit D provided a very personal piece that looks finished. I think that perhaps that artist did not understand the event. Not sure what I would have done had I received it as a beginning but slicing it up and putting a city outline over it gives me a shiver of loathing.

  13. I think for the most part that the second artists threw out the work of the first. That is not collaboration but high-jacking. Now, I think that was not true for Exhibit B. The first artist might not like the results but the second artist used the work of the first artist and added to it. The work of the first artist is still on the stage. I think Exhibit B was very successful!